SMILING SKELETONS - A POEM BY ROSS ROSENBERG
I started this poem eight years ago after visiting my childhood home (in Mt. Prospect, IL). I had hoped that someone would be home to let me come inside to revisit the rooms containing bittersweet memories of my family and youth. Sadly, no one was home.
From that moment until the completion of this poem's first draft, I contemplated my tendency to suppress or purposely forget large swaths of childhood memories. I felt ready to recall some of these memories safely stowed away in my metaphorical closet.
In writing the poem, I took an artistic liberty with the term "skeletons in the closet," which is generally understood as something terrible or embarrassing that happened in someone's past that is kept secret. I imagined friendly closest skeleton creatures who took pleasure in helping a person to remember...to integrate painful memories into their memory.
In this poem, these skeletons wanted to...tried to help me heal the trauma of the past, so I no longer had to be so afraid of it I would relegate it to the "dark and cluttered closet" of my mind.
Like a magnet,
I was pulled toward my childhood home,
where lost days, weeks, and years
were anonymously recorded
on a calendar that no one ever saw.
The house was painted anew
with familiar but overgrown trees,
which could not hide the memories
of a loneliness-stained childhood
in which happily playing children
were oblivious to the boy next door.
Once inside my bedroom,
I stood in front of the familiar
but frightening closet,
where broken toys and missing game parts
were once careless, scattered,
and sadly forgotten.
On top of the lost remnants of my youth
sat closet skeletons.
These happy-seeming bony creatures
rejoiced at the opportunity
to dance in the light of recollection.
My new skeleton friends encouraged me
to accept what I had tried hard to forget.
To release long-buried fears
and live with half-open closets
that no longer needed to be locked tight.
It is time to bid farewell
to my skeleton companions.
To acknowledge their generous sharing,
To make friends with the past,
To allow their healing energy
into a life without a dark scarry closet.